THE long-awaited $4 billion Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper was finally launched – more than six months later than originally scheduled – by federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce and Prime Minister Tony Abbott at a Victorian dairy farm on Saturday.
Industry reaction remains mixed as its contents are gradually being processed by industry leaders.
Grain Producers SA chief executive Darren Arney said key measures included increased resources at the Australian competition and consumer commission, with an agricultural commissioner to be appointed and part of the charter to look at supply chains.
"I think the other thing that's identified in the white paper is getting farmers further up the value chain, closer to the customer – I think that will work," he said.
"There will be potential to reduce costs but also increase farmer participation in value adding or direct marketing to the end user or the consumer, that's a big plus."
Funding for the APVMA and shortened time frames to bring new crop protection products to market in Australia was "another wine" for farmers.
"That just flows straight onto productivity, straight there," Mr Arney said.
"There's also the look at multi-peril crop insurance and government helping quantify and independently analyse where the risk parameters are for the reinsurers.
"Australia has a fairly variable crop production profile but over probably the last 10 years there's been some major changes in cropping practices; that needs to be taken into account.
"I reckon once those are identified and demonstrated then that would likely decrease premiums and make those products more attractive to those farmers that see a need for them."
Mr Arney said doubling farm management deposits to $800,000 and ability to offset business interest was a "real boon" for farmers.
Dairy Connect chief executive Mike Logan said while the paper covered off some very important issues, it did not aim at any targets or create any goals for agriculture and the associated agricultural manufacturing industries.
"The Agriculture Minister and his department have missed the chance to provide guidance for our agricultural industries and the manufacturing sector that depends on agricultural production," he said
"Goals and clear purpose are the drivers of investment. They attract people who are looking to be assured by government that the direction is clear and well developed. This is particularly important when attracting new investment into the agricultural and associated manufacturing sector."
The University of Melbourne's horticulture and viticulture professor Snow Barlow agreed.
"The white paper represents a missed opportunity for this government to set a strategic agenda for the agrifood industries in the next decade," he said.
"There is a critical opportunity for Australian agriculture in the slipstream of trade agreements with our major trading partners and a remarkable confluence of demand drivers such as population growth, the emergence of the Asian middle classes and climate change pushing up food prices.
"The white paper does not map out a strategic pathway for Australia's agrifood industries to capitalise on these historic opportunities supported by innovative policy initiatives and investment.
"Rather, it proposes a number of bandaid solutions for drought and the power of the supermarkets without addressing the underlying issues of climate change adaptation and leveraging the quality and safety of Australian food to achieve greater value.
"Unfortunately this white paper does not provide the clear direction required if Australia's agrifood industries are to fill some of the export gaps left by the car manufacturing and mining industries."
SA's acting Agriculture Minister Kyam Maher said the state government was carefully examining the white paper.
"We welcome the $450 million funding for national water infrastructure projects, and we will be working closely with the federal government to secure SA's share of this funding," he said.
"We also welcome the increased support for drought-affected farmers, and note the additional resources to promote the premium food concept that SA has been leading for the past couple of years."
Acting Opposition agriculture spokesperson Adrian Pederick welcomed the federal government's investment in agriculture as a major win for the South Australian economy and the agribusiness sector in particular.
"This vote of confidence from the Abbott Government has come at a crucial time for SA's agribusiness sector and the struggling state economy," said Mr Pederick.
"With the contraction of the state's manufacturing sector, agriculture will become even more important in SA's economic future."